In marketing, perspective is everything. To engage your audience, you have to understand their point of view. It’s true in the abstract sense, of how they conceptualize their business challenges and how they perceive your brand, and also true in the very literal sense of how your ads, messages, and other marketing materials display on the devices and browsers they’re actually using.
To optimize these communications, you have to be able to see them through the eyes of the audience you’re trying to reach—and it’s not just about getting into the right mindset. Creating a consistent experience for website visitors across all browser and OS platforms has been a challenge for eCommerce marketers since the primeval days of Netscape and Mosaic. You can’t just assume that a build that looks and works great in your development environment will display and function the way you want it to on your leads’ devices.
Emulating devices and software is a solvable problem, but in an increasingly globalized business-to-business market, geographic location plays an increasingly significant role in determining what your audience can or cannot see. Regulations, firewalls, and network infrastructure in other countries can greatly influence how your marketing efforts are perceived. To ensure that you’re not wasting time and money creating material that your audience won’t even see, you have to be able to see how things will actually appear on their end.
One of the most useful B2B marketing tools to have in your arsenal is a virtual private network, or VPN. Used correctly, a VPN can give you accurate insights into exactly how your ads and web pages will appear in the geographic markets you’re targeting, and whether you’re using the best marketing approaches for these locations.
How Are VPNs Used for Testing?
A VPN acts like a buffer between its users and the greater internet. All internet traffic is mediated through the VPN, and the users’ identity and actual network address is never revealed to the sites it visits. VPNs are often used for security and to preserve anonymity, but they can serve an important purpose for marketers as well.
A VPN can hail from virtually any country or geographic location, thereby allowing its users to browse the internet as though they were located in the same place as the VPN. For example, imagine a Canadian website that blocks visits from IP addresses located in the United States. If a visitor in the US makes use of a VPN that identifies itself with an IP address from South Korea, they can navigate to the Canadian website, which will see a South Korean visitor and grant access. The VPN will shield the US visitor’s geographical origin and identifying details from the website.
By using a VPN, companies can review how their ads are being displayed in different countries and check to make sure that their targeting is working as intended.
Of course, the example above is greatly simplified. To test the efficacy of a worldwide marketing campaign, a single VPN at a fixed location won’t be much help if you want to see how your campaign materials will display from within every different market you’re targeting. Fortunately, VPNs aren’t necessarily locked in to a single location. A VPN provider can use residential IPs and database IPs to change their apparent location.
This makes it relatively easy for marketers to engage in geo testing—using location to determine control and test groups so you can compare marketing activities across different regions.
Residential IP vs Database IP: What’s the Difference?
There are two types of IP addresses VPNs can use to spoof their location. Residential IP addresses are owned by internet service providers and are associated with their individual home internet users. Database IPs are owned by datacenter proxy services.
Used by a VPN, either type of IP address will mask the actual location of its users, but the sites you visit will know whether your IP is classified as residential or database in origin. Database IPs are much cheaper to own, so that’s what most VPN providers use.
For ad testing purposes, database IPs can be problematic. Because websites can tell what kind of IP you’re using, they may restrict or block access from database IP users, or display different landing pages. Proxy VPNs are used by a wide range of internet users, not just marketers, and may be associated with harmful behavior (such as hacking or denial-of-service attacks). The demand-side platforms used by advertisers will almost always recognize database IPs and treat them differently than “real” users.
To perform geo testing effectively, you need to be able to visit the sites you’re testing from IP addresses that will make you look like normal, organic web traffic from expected, default locations. As it is wildly impractical to invest in acquiring residential IP addresses from every corner of the globe, the best solution is to seek out a proxy service that already has them, like Pangeo Pro.
How Can I Change My Location with Pangeo Pro?
Pangeo Pro provides users with residential IP addresses for more than 150 different locations and 30 different mobile networks from around the world, allowing marketers and developers to view, monitor, and validate their work as seen from virtually any major country or city. Their geo testing package includes browser extensions, web and mobile apps, direct API, and an add-on called Fiddler, all of which allow users to quickly and seamlessly switch locations from within virtually any device or application.
The Pangeo Pro geo testing environment is flexible and modifiable. You can emulate a wide variety of devices, including smart TVs and gaming consoles, adjust variables that may affect page display (cookies, cache, user agents, etc), and whitelist sites you want to reach with a regular connection outside the proxy service, like Gmail or LinkedIn.
Pangeo Pro uses a clean residential IP network. “Clean” means IP addresses that have not been previously used for illicit or harmful activities and have not been added to network blacklists. Unfortunately, hackers, botnets and fraudsters are known to use proxy services to disguise themselves, and when network administrators catch on to their activities, the proxy IPs they use get added to widely disseminated blacklists.
By verifying that their residential IPs are clean, Pangeo Pro creates a reliable testing environment where you will never be identified as a proxy user and never get blocked, ensuring an uninterrupted user experience that enables you to engage in as much testing and monitoring as your campaign requires.
The ability to maintain a real presence in a foreign market does not always keep pace with the ability to sell in that market. Rather than cede these markets to competitors or launch campaigns without the ability to test and monitor them, global ecommerce companies can avail themselves of technologies like VPNs to perfectly mimic the user experience on the ground in these markets. This allows them to share the perspective of their audience and make any necessary changes or adjustments that will make their campaign more effective.